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April 30: News from around the Driftless Area
News From Around the Arrea

‘News from Around the Driftless Area’ is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

VIROQUA –The Westby School Board voted on April 15 to request the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction waive the minimum number of hours of instruction for the school district because of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency and school closure orders. The request is for any instructional hours between March 18 and the end of the public health emergency. The district has been using a flexible learning delivery model since March 23… Dave and Ruth Amundson from the History Alive Project went to the Town of Coon Dump to investigate the amount and types of garbage and plastics that were collected each week. Manager Tom Cade reported that there are multiple five-cubic-yard containers for the unsorted dump items at the site. There are designated additional bins for glass, plastics, cardboard and paper products with clearly posted signage as to what goes in each. Gaylord Nelson would be proud, along with Gary Anderson and Milly Zantow, at being satisfied with efforts shown by the town’s citizens they practice Earth Day every week of the year… Starting Tuesday, April 28, or shortly thereafter, several streets throughout the city of Viroqua will be undergoing micro-surfacing. Micro-surfacing is a protective seal coat which extends the life of pavement. It is a thin, tough layer of asphalt blended with finely crushed stone for traction. Micro-surfacing is a cost-effective method to renew and extend the life of roads and road surfaces… In an attempt to help out struggling farmers, the DeSoto FFA is selling 18-inch by 24-inch poly yard signs. Each sign is $10 and all proceeds and donations will be used to purchase dairy products to donate to local food pantries. They will be doing contactless delivery to homes, farms and businesses within and surrounding the DeSoto School District in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. 

LA FARGE –Town of Whitestown Chairperson George Wilbur was present in person at the town hall to facilitate a meeting of the town board via teleconference on Tuesday, April 14. Wilbur reported that the FEMA paperwork for the 2019 flood was complete, and the town will receive a check for $10,425. He also said the repair work for the 2017 flood was completed, and that work came to $51,280. Wilbur originally worked to apply for a Wisconsin Trust Fund loan to purchase a new town truck, but gave up and instead attained a loan at 2.5 percent from the Bank of Cashton, which is a lower interest rate than the state would have charged. Town Clerk Mona Spohn reported that a total of 153 votes were cast in the April 7 election, 92 of which were cast by absentee ballot… At their Monday, April 13 meeting, the Village of LaFarge Board hired Vierbicher and Associates to revise the village’s TIF 1 contract, to extend it for three years. The original TIF was for the Organic Valley complex.

ONTARIO – As COVID-19 cases emerge in nursing homes throughout the nation, some may wonder how local facilities are doing. A recent outbreak in a Winona nursing home makes the issue even more concerning. Linda Nederlo, public information officer for Vernon County Emergency Management, reports that luckily there have been no cases in long-term care facilities in Vernon County to date. Although the county’s three nursing homes have their own plans, the county will become involved in the event of an infection. All nursing homes are closed to the public, and staff are required to wear masks when interacting with patients. The health department is also assisting the nursing homes with guidance and supplies… The Ontario Village Board agreed that the village’s two public-works employees would work on alternate days during the week, but would be paid for a 40-hour week. The board hoped that the schedule will prevent both men from getting sick.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –At its April 8 meeting, the River Ridge Board of Education approved an application for the state to waive the requirements for instructional minutes if face-to-face instruction were to ease for the remainder of the school year. River Ridge District Administrator Clay Koenig said teachers, parents and students had been expressing frustrations over virtual learning. Koenig sent a letter out to district residents indicating that the district would have no further assignments for students after May 15… A BNSF train derailment happened on the morning of April 20 on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River near Dubuque. The derailment occurred across the river from the John Deere factory. BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the accident happened after a train hit a large boulder on the tracks… Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds made an emergency proclamation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Effigy Mounds National Monument was temporarily closed as of April 18, including all hiking trails, the visitor center. The park will remain closed until further notice.

BOSCOBEL – Three blocks of West LeGrand Street, from Wisconsin Avenue to Highway 61, are closed as the $566,582 street improvement project is now underway. The project will also entail the 500 block of West LeGrand Street. Gerke Excavation of Tomah was the low bidder on the project, which is expected to last throughout the summer. The scope of the project includes replacement of water and sanitary sewer mains, as well as repavement of the street… Cars wound for blocks around Immaculate Conception Church in Boscobel on Tuesday, April 21 for the Catholic Charities Food Pantry. Second Harvest FoodShare Outreach Specialist Brian Larson said they had doubled the food allotment from 60 to 120 people for the drive-up pantry as demand grows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Loaded into each car were 30 pounds of dry goods, 15-20 pounds of refrigerated goods, and five pounds of dairy products.

FENNIMORE – A former Fennimore resident took to the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicole Mathys (Stivarius) worked as a nurse practitioner with Krucial Staffing, a crisis staffing company in the New York metro area, that works with FEMA and Bellevue Hospital. Mathys heard of a local group of health care workers who were thinking of going to New York to help through social media, and realized that she would have to make the decision and plan to depart within 24-48 hours. Mathys was assigned to work at Bellevue Hospital, originally for two weeks, but then “until she is no longer needed…” Hillside Greenhouse, located between Boscobel and Fennimore, has been in business since 1999, and has worked hard to adapt their facility for 2020 sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Flowers are one of the biggest sellers, and owner Lisa Kreul reports that customers are already starting to preorder vegetable plants.

LANCASTER – Starting the week of April 13, Grant County changed its parameters for testing for COVID-19. As a result, the number of positive cases increased dramatically. As of Tuesday, April 14, the number of confirmed cases in Grant County was eight, and as of Tuesday, April 21, the number had gone up to 25, a threefold increase. The number of fatalities also tripled in that time from one to three… The Grant County Board of Supervisors held their first meeting of the new two-year term on Tuesday, April 21. This reorganizational meeting was unlike any other as the county governing body was split between those who ventured into the County Administration Building and those who were connecting to the meeting with the Zoom conference app. Dealing with audio issues delayed the meeting start by nine minutes, and were never fully fixed… The Cassville School District convened its April 16 meeting hours after Governor Evers announced an extension of the ‘Safer at Home’ order. The board agreed that the current mode of instruction would continue through the rest of the term, with May 15 being the last day of the school year. The board moved the date of graduation to June 13, but whether or not the ceremony is conducted in-person will depend on factors relating to COVID-19 restrictions.